3 steps to inspire your CEO to become a revenue marketing advocate

I received a call from a good friend and a heck of a revenue marketer over the holidays. She told me that her CEO was shutting down marketing and using the money to invest in lists and hire cold callers. Now, you may have to re-read this sentence a few times to believe it, but I saw this phenomenon (or some version of it) more than once last year and in each case, marketing was delivering numbers.

So why? Why is it that these CEOs didn't see the value in the revenue-related contributions from marketing? One word: belief.

We all have our own way of seeing the world, of filtering what we experience. This re-framing is how we shape meaning and how we create our beliefs – both personal and professional. The same is true for CEOs. Think for a moment about their experiences and the kind of professional meaning their experiences have shaped for them. 

  • Consider the typical CEO background. It’s probably more finance and operations than marketing. 
  • Consider the typical CEO job. It’s about leading the company profitably into the future - and most CEOs do not have a crystal ball. 
  • Consider the typical CEO pressure from the board and investors. The CEO produces the numbers and he/she gets to keep her job.
  • Consider the typical CEO experience with marketing. Marketing is the big budget and no return on investment group – still, the pens and mugs department.

This set of experiences and many more create a deeply-held belief about the role of marketing in the company. So, when the CMO or VP of marketing comes to the CEO and begins to talk about 'revenue marketing' or turning marketing from a cost center to a revenue center, the amount of communication and change that needs to happen in order for the CEO to fully adopt and advocate for this transformation cannot be underestimated. 

So, what’s a marketer to do?

Having worked with hundreds of companies, here are three proven steps to turn your CEO into a revenue marketing advocate:

  1. Become BFFs with the VP of sales.
  2. Communicate directly to the CEO and others in the c-suite.
  3. Educate constantly about how your marketing team is driving revenue.

The CEO is extremely focused on numbers and the VP of sales is responsible for those numbers. For marketing to really get the CEO onboard, begin with getting the VP of sales onboard. And, it has to go beyond being BFFs. The marketing and sales relationship must be one about revenue, in which together they make up the revenue team for the organization.

Next, the communication about marketing contribution to revenue must come from the marketer leading this effort. Too often I have seen a VP of marketing reporting who was making it happen.  Unfortunately, this VP was reporting to a CMO who really didn't understand the concept of revenue marketing. Guess how results got reported to the executive committee? The person driving the revenue results needs to be communicating to the executive suite.

Finally, CEOs need constant education on the value of revenue marketing to their organization. Really good CEOs are highly creative - they are masters at looking at all of their resources and determining unique combinations to improve performance. Imagine a one-day CEO seminar focused on leveraging marketing as a revenue tool. That is what you need to communicate to your CEO over time.

Ask yourself – “What does my CEO believe about marketing?” An honest reflection on this question as you go into 2017 will help you better prepare to not only potentially keep your job, but also to help your CEO discover a new weapon in the quest for revenue – marketing.